“The mosaic of little places”: what do neighbourhoods and residents add up to?

By GHSA Board Member Alisa Wilson


‘You would need a very big map of the world in order to make Port William visible upon it. In the actual scale of a state highway map, Port William would be smaller than the dot that locates it. In the eyes of the powers that be, we Port Williamites live and move and have our being within a black period about the size of the one that ends a sentence. It would be a considerable overstatement to say that before making their decisions the leaders of the world do not consult the citizens of Port William. Thousands of leaders of our state and nation, entire administrations, corporate board meetings, university sessions, synods and councils of the church have come and gone without hearing or pronouncing the name of Port William. And how many such invisible, nameless, powerless little places are there in the world? All the world, as a matter of fact, is a mosaic of little places invisible to the powers that be. And in the eyes of the powers that be all these invisible places do not add up to a visible place. They add up to words and numbers.”
Wendell Berry,  from his novel, Jayber Crow

Congratulations to Surrey’s new Mayor, Linda Hepner, and new and returning Council members.
Development applications stalled for a bit in the fall, leading up to the election, reportedly now are on a faster track than ever. Existing City-approved Land Use Plans do not provide much visible guidance to further densification applications and lack resident support.
Does Surrey Council feel that Grandview Heights residents deserve no more than 3 weeks notice prior to the City giving first and second reading to controversial development proposal 14-0225? Why is this happening just 10 days before the Christmas holiday?

Development application numbers and even addresses mean little when you glance over them in the media. I’ll try to bring this one to life, if I can.

Development proposal #14-0225 is located at the corner of 28th Ave. and 164th St. in the RA-1acre zoned area east of 164th St in Grandview Heights. RA  means Residential-Agricultural, and this much-loved and very beautiful area still has the grassy fields and tall fir, cedar, birch, maple and other trees that make it a paradise for raising kids, and a refuge for every kind of living thing that we love to see around us when we walk through our neighbourhood. The trees filter pollutants from the air, and the grass and soil hold the rain, reducing flooding and storing fresh water. The tall mature evergreens air condition the area from summer heat, and insulate homes from icy winter winds blasting across the flats.

These remaining semi-rural areas are a precious natural reserve for nearby townhouse or apartment residents whose yards aren’t big enough to sustain robins, owls or deer or a tree of any size. These larger properties allow all nearby families a share in the daily experience of nature that all kids deserve, and give everyone lovely, shady, low traffic routes to walk the dog or the baby.

The Mayor and Council have yet to show how much value they attach to these things, and to their resident citizens – that they mean more than just cash in the bag. Agreed, it’s a hard job to properly monitor the way our city develops.

Why should anyone living elsewhere in Surrey worry about this one little area, if they haven’t got a development on the doorstep? Because you may be next… and will be too, before long. Whether you like rural or urban living, you’d probably like to see a few big trees near enough to walk under, and a bit of nature to enjoy in the spring, without needing a car to do so.

If you too wish to see more sensitive development practices in your Surrey neighbourhood, it might be worthwhile to join together with the many Surrey residents who would like to have their choice of neighbourhood and lifestyle respected and valued. Why should we have to keep moving on? – it’s our neighbourhood!

It’s clear we need to support each other, neighbourhood supporting neighbourhood, or residents get ignored. We can help each other out by letting Council know that we care about development applications in and around our own town centre, from the core to the rural surrounds that all contribute to a wonderful, joyous place to live, or give us a concrete jungle.

The holiday season is a terrible time to worry about this, but it only takes 5 minutes to send the Mayor and Council a note.  On January 12th, this application will go to Public Hearing and then, once more, residents will see urbanization creep into an area that does not have an NCP, does not want urban development, and that has been ignored.

Tell them ‘NO’ to development application #14-0225. See details at:


‘…for better or worse our lives are woven together here, one with one another and with the place and all the living things….
…if we can’t live together, we can’t live at all. Did you ever think about that?’

Quotes are from the book Jayber Crow by the Guggenheim Fellowship winner Wendell Berry


The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s and are presented here by the GHSA to encourage healthy debate. The GHSA Blog exists as a resource to enable members concerned with the environmental and community stewardship of Grandview Heights to voice perspectives. When directors of the Association contribute to the blog, they do so as private citizens, not as officers representing the Association. The GHSA reserves the right to edit, condense or reject any contribution.